How to get the most out of the EQT Children’s Theater Festival this year

The EQT Children’s Theater Festival celebrates its 30th birthday this year, but the beloved event’s energy and spirit will keep its reputation forever young.

Running May 12th through May 15th in the Cultural District, this year’s EQT Children’s Theater Festival will feature eight ticketed performances to draw a wide range of audiences, from babies to teens and their families.

In addition to performances from seven award-winning theater companies from Peru, Mexico, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Canada and the United States, festival goers can enjoy more than 40 free attractions, ranging from hands-on activities and public art to live music at pop-up spaces outdoors and indoor lobbies throughout the Cultural District.

Art galleries throughout the neighborhood will offer free family-friendly installations, and a giant pinball machine will hold court at a space on Penn Avenue. Penny Arcade will perform free kids’ shows at Arcade Comedy Theater while the Harris Theater will play free international animated shorts continuously throughout the festival. Kids can also collect tickets at sites throughout the Cultural District and collect a prize compliments of Katie’s Kandy as part of a frog stop scavenger hunt.

Kidsburgh put together this handy guide to help you plan your theater adventure:

Air Play from Acrobuffos. Image courtesy of EQT Children's Theater Festival
Air Play from Acrobuffos. Image courtesy of EQT Children’s Theater Festival


Appropriate for all ages, Air Play combines the high art of Daniel Wurtzel’s air sculptures with crowd-pleasing comedy from Seth Bloom and Christina Gelsone of New York City. Air Play will offer a sensory-friendly performance at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 14th.

Peek by Teatro al Vacio

The Mexican theater company Teatro al Vacio creates a space just for babies and toddlers filled with eye-catching colors and textures. The U.S. premiere of this event is best for children up to 3 years old and their grown-ups.

“That’s a new trend in the theater industry, working alongside child development experts to create shows that are developmentally appropriate for the youngest theatergoers,” says Executive Director Pam Komar.

Goodnight Moon and the Runaway Bunny by Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia

Endearing rabbit characters, soothing rhythms and dream-like antics bring to life these two beloved picture books by Margaret Wise Brown. Mermaid Theatre’s performances at the August Wilson Center are best for children ages 3 to 8. A sensory-friendly performance of this show will be held at 11:45 a.m. on Saturday, May 14th. In order to encourage audience members on the autism spectrum to attend, Komar says the house lights will stay half-lit and the volume turned down a bit.

Egg by Cahoots NI. Image courtesy of EQT Children's Theater Festival
Egg by Cahoots NI. Image courtesy of EQT Children’s Theater Festival

Egg by Cahoots NI

Using magic, music and a tiny rustic set built of twigs, feathers and shell, Cahoots NI theater company from Northern Ireland weaves a delightful story of three madcap birds on an adventure.

Short Stories by Teatro Hugo e Ines

Best for ages 7 and up, this mix of mime, puppetry and dance from Peruvian company Teatro Hugo e Ines shares a silly crew of characters made of knees, feet, hands, elbows and props playing out the poetic moments of everyday life.

“It’s a physical theater piece that creates puppets out of different body parts,” Komar says. “You believe that a foot with a nose on it is a puppet.”

Titus from Red Bridge Arts. Image courtesy of EQT Children's Theater Festival
Titus from Red Bridge Arts. Image courtesy of EQT Children’s Theater Festival

Titus by Red Bridge Arts

Appropriate for ages 10 and up, Titus is considered one of Europe’s most successful plays for young people and tells the story of a boy going through life’s challenges as a pre-teen. This performance is part of Scottish company Red Bridge Arts’ first national tour of U.S. cities and is also in the EQT Bridge Theater Series.

The Sheep from Corpus. Image courtesy of EQT Children's Theater Festival
The Sheep from Corpus. Image courtesy of EQT Children’s Theater Festival

The Sheep by Corpus

This wordless live installation from Canadian company Corpus recreates a country scene in a typical urban setting with a corral where dancers transform into sheep who are fed, sheared and preyed upon. The outdoor performance in the Cultural District is best for ages 3 and up.

“It’s an artistic answer to requests for a petting zoo,” Komar says. “It’s fun to see a country setting Downtown amid the skyscrapers.”

Welcome to Here by Bricolage

Welcome to Here is a sensory-friendly, immersive adventure for children ages 5 and up only. The festival commissioned the piece from Bricolage artists, who worked for over a year to create a show specifically for people for audiences with sensory sensitivities, Komar says.

The footprint for the festival extends from the Byham Theater on Sixth Street to the August Wilson Center for African American Culture on Sixth Street, Komar says. From 10 a.m. May 10th until midnight May 15th, 8th Street will close from Liberty Avenue to the entrance of the 8th/Penn Parking lots and Penn Avenue will close between 7th and 9th streets, including the bike lanes.

Tickets are available online, in person at the Theater Square Box Office, 655 Penn Avenue, or by calling 412-456-6666.